Pandemic sheds light on crucial need for access to clean water services

April 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has shed light on many of the structural challenges facing this country, from shortages in health and human services to vital infrastructure needs that have been neglected far too long. As members of Congress continue to debate the merits of providing financial relief to various public sectors and private industries – from the cruise and tourism industries to other, arguably more essential components of the global economy – one sector of our critical infrastructure is now claiming its rightful spotlight as an essential service – water.

Despite having been passed over for much-needed financial relief in the most recent stimulus packages, the essential need for clean and safe water has never been more apparent or on the minds of so many. With this new awareness, the long overdue federal investment to repair and upgrade these systems is being acknowledged by Congress and this administration.

In the early days of the pandemic, knowing that sanitation and hygiene are the foundation to preventing the spread of COVID-19, the public clean water sector worked to ensure that all U.S. households – even those with delinquent accounts – would have access to clean water. This was largely done at the individual utility level, made with the knowledge that providing free services to those in need comes at a cost, and at a time when these same agencies are suffering staggering revenue losses from the historic economic disruption caused by COVID-19. Clean water agencies employ essential workers, many of whom still show up in person each day to ensure homes, businesses and hospitals have uninterrupted water services to keep people safe.

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